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Traffic routinely backs up at the Hwy. 127 N. and Interstate Dr. intersection. The city of Crossville is completing right-of-way acquisition for phase 3 of the Northwest Connector, the phase from Hwy. 127 N. to Genesis Rd., beginning at Arby’s. The road would be widened to five lanes with a four-foot bike lane, which reduced the amount of right-of-way needed from a 10-foot shoulder.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is scheduled to award construction bids on the first phase of the Hwy. 127 N. road project in mid-2019. 

When complete, motorists will have an improved road from Interstate 40 in Crossville to Clarkrange in Fentress County. 

The first phase will include a five-lane road from Interstate 40 to about Tabor Loop and then become a four-lane, divided highway to just past Potato Farm Rd.

Other sections of the project include a new crossing for Clear Creek from about Lowe Rd. in Cumberland County 3.3 miles to Little Rd. in Clarkrange, with construction letting scheduled for 2020; from Potato Farm Rd. to about Hollow Lane, 3.5 miles, scheduled for construction letting in 2022; and the final segment from Hollow Lane to Lowe Rd., 3.1 miles, with construction letting set for 2023.

In 2018, the state announced the two middle segments did not meet traffic volume requirements for the planned four-lane divided highway. Instead, the state has said it will acquire the property for the new four-lane road but construct an improved two-lane highway to serve until traffic counts increase. 

The project doesn’t include a new traffic signal at the intersection of Hwy. 127 N. and the entrance to Interchange Business Park, something members of the Crossville City Council asked about during a Dec. 17 retreat. 

Councilman J.H. Graham III said, “I still get complaints … The big trucks that come out of there take two lanes to get back going south. Then, when a truck is going north to turn left, he backs it up all the way to the traffic lights.”

The city had sought to get the state to put a traffic signal there to ease congestion and make it easier for trucks and employees accessing the businesses. Traffic is expected to grow in that location when the city and county find an industry for the 200,000-square-foot building pad, which could bring up to 200 more workers to the business park. 

City Engineer Tim Begley said the site didn’t have enough left turns to warrant a traffic signal.

“It’s going to take accidents with injuries or the left-turn traffic volume to increase,” Begley said. 

The road project will require the city to relocate its water line and sewer line along the project route. 

Begley said the city has a waterline along the highway all the way to Clear Creek at the Fentress County line. It also has a sewer line serving North Cumberland Elementary.

Phase one of the project stretches from Interstate 40 to Potato Farm Rd., with a five-lane road to about Tabor Loop and a four-lane, divided highway to just past Potato Farm Rd. 

TDOT and the city will split the cost of moving the utility lines, depending on whether the lines are in the state’s original right of way or in the city’s easement. The original estimates called for the state paying $1.7 million for water line relocation and $473,000 for sewer lines. The city must pay $525,000 for the waterline move and $237,000 to move the sewer line. 

The city plans to upgrade the existing line from a 6-inch line to a 10-inch line. 

Hwy. 127 S.

A long-planned road project widening of Hwy. 127 S. from the hospital to the intersection of Hwy. 68 at the Homestead Tower is considered a “dead project,” Begley told the council.

There’s been no movement on the project for several years. Graham said the environmental impact of the project at two bridges and the intersection by the Homestead Tower complicated the project, leading him to believe the project would not move forward anytime soon. 

However, the city deposited $1.3 million with TDOT around 2004 to pay for utility relocation. That money has been sitting there every since.

“You need to vote on it,” Begley said. “I feel like the mayor needs to write a letter to get that money back.”

The city is earning interest on the funds, but the money isn’t available for other projects.

Graham said he had recommended the state break the project into different sections because of the environmental concerns.

“Our hopes were to run section one from the hospital to the state garage,” Graham said. “That’s what most of the utility work would have to be … But we haven’t had any luck doing anything. We’ve just had that money lying there for 15 years.”

Northwest Connector

The city is completing right-of-way acquisition for phase 3 of the Northwest Connector, the phase from Hwy. 127 N. to Genesis Rd., beginning at Arby’s. The road would be widened to five lanes with a four-foot bike lane, which reduced the amount of right-of-way needed from a 10-foot shoulder. Begley said that would reduce the impact on existing businesses on the route. 

The Northwest Connector grew from a 2001 study that found the amount of traffic on Elmore Rd. presented a “critical hazard,” Begley told the council. 

“The thought process was this is going to move traffic off Elmore to bring the hazard level down to improve safety and move the traffic to a brand-new road,” Begley said. 

It’s been successful so far, Begley said. Since the first portion of the project opened, traffic counts on Elmore Rd. have decreased, he said. 

The city is paying for the road project with Surface Transportation Program funds, with an 80-20 split with the state. 

The remaining phase, from Hwy. 127 N. to Hwy. 70 N., joins the first phase near the Crossville Flea Market. TDOT has been working on the environmental document for the phase, Begley said, and the city would begin engineering for the project once TDOT gave them the go-ahead. 

This project will include a bridge over a stream, straightening the road. 

Other upcoming projects include bridge replacements on Hwy. 70 N. and Hwy. 70 W., scheduled to begin in 2020. There will be water and sewer line relocations necessary for those projects.

“I couldn’t tell you the value of that,” Begley said. “We’re not that far enough along.”

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

Editor of the Crossville Chronicle.